Seems like nothing can stop the Swiss folk metallers from Eluveitie from pursuing their path. One might think that the departure of three members would suffice to make them at least break a sweat, but thankfully, they didn’t give up and managed to navigate out of those stormy waters. With the upcoming release of Evocation II: Pantheon on the horizon, we took some time to speak with their leader, Chrigel Glanzmann, about how they found their new members, and got some details on the new album as well.
So you’ve just released the clip for “Epona”, the new album is coming out in a few weeks, and there’s an upcoming tour through Europe and Russia. What is the vibe, what are you hyped for, and how do you feel about it?
Of course we’re hyped and we’re a much-touring band, and [by our standard] we’ve had rather a long break, so yeah, we’re super excited to finally hit the road again. And we’re excited to tour Europe and tour Russia again. Of course we’re hyped!
Do you have any further plans, like Finland maybe?
Yeah, I mean, at the moment we are working on quite a lot of, in my opinion, pretty cool things regarding the upcoming album, which of course I cannot let out, otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise anymore. We are also working on our further plans, which I also cannot talk about [laughs] but we might come up with some nice surprises within the next couple of months.
Do you plan to film any more clips at this point or is it still in a conceptual stage?
Yeah, we are working on some.
Your lips are sealed, right?
[laughs] Yeah, we’re working at the moment; I don’t wanna tell. You’ll see!
Moving on to the album itself then, was there any reason, other than musically, to start with “Epona” as a single?
To be honest, we haven’t really thought about it that much. It was a very intuitive decision that “Epona” would be the first. But to be fair, actually I have to say “Epona” was the first song ever written for Evocation II. So, I don’t know, it just felt right.
I’m kind of a history nerd too, so I wondered if it’s because of her significance and that’s why you went for her first.
Not necessarily. I mean, she generally is. That’s probably one of the reasons why she is on more than one of our albums. But it didn’t have much to do with the fact that it was the first one to be released.
It’s also a very cheerful song overall, very bright – the overall feel is very different than the previous Evocation album, I’d say.
Evocation II – Pantheon carries the spirit and vibe of Evocation I pretty well, I think. It’s probably even folkier, closer to tradition, and rougher. But overall it’s a pretty mystical, partly lugubrious, and dark album. But yeah, you’re right, “Epona” is rather surging forward. We’ve tried to not only deal with the particular deities lyrically, but to also express their character musically. That’s where the ‘galloping’ character of “Epona” comes from.
So, the pantheon! Let’s start with the cover. Usually before I do interviews I try to do some research, but I couldn’t research this cover… so what does it depict?
I just tried to create something that represents the tone of the album. The concept of the album is basically the Celtic pantheon, the otherworld. I mean, it’s the main theme on the Evocation concept cycle generally – pristine Celtic mythology put into songs. So I wanted to create something that can express that. The cover is a rather complex icon; there’s a lot symbolism in it, but I can give you a quick summary.
So, this four-corner symbol you see at the very back is the great wheel, which is crucial in Celtic culture and, if you want to say it in a cheesy way, represents nature’s rhythm, the natural cycle of the year, the seasons, the equinoxes, solstices, and so on. Above that you have a tripartite Enneagram, three triangles to form a nine-pointed star, with three groups of three points each, representing the trinities within the Celtic pantheon. This all frames the figure in the center, which is a combination of various different deep and important symbols of Celtic mythology. The figure itself is a depiction of the god Lugus, who is a tri-cephalic deity – often addressed in plural – as the trinity of the Lugoves. The lower part of his depiction is framed with the so-called lord of the animals symbol, expressing a rather deep concept of Celtic mythology; it basically shows man’s role among all creatures, which is not described in a manner as today’s society unfortunately sees it, but in short and simple words rather expresses something like a symbiosis between all creatures. The upper half of Lugus is framed by the symbolism of high-kingship, which was also a very deep and crucial spiritual concept in Celtic culture (but since it’s rather complex it would probably go beyond the space of an interview to explain it in detail).
Now, where the lines of the great wheel and the circles cross, they create fields, which are filled with capitals of the names of the gods and goddesses that are presented on the album, in the order they relate to each others.
Are the letters in the outer circle in Gaulish or Latin?
Nooo, of course Gaulish. Everything you have there is Gaulish.
So that’s why I couldn’t research it…
Actually those are the lyrics of the opening track of the album. This is a very short track and the lyrics are basically a kind of an invitation. Because, you look at the album it’s like a journey through the Celtic pantheon. So this text is an invitation for the one who dares to set forth on this journey. At the same time, it’s also sort of a magical blessing for the traveler. The lyrics mean, “May you come in. May your journey be safe. May you find blessing. May you find wisdom and knowledge. May you see yourself.”
Continuing with the album then – do you think that the departure of Anna, Ivo, and Merlin had a creative impact on the new record?
I will have to say yes and no. On one hand no, in the sense that Eluveitie is still Eluveitie, always has been and will always be. The core didn’t change. It was a tough, hard time for everybody… hard for us all as people, emotionally. We’d been together for nearly 10 years! But now looking back after nearly 1.5 years after our split, I think that was really good, and Anna, Ivo, and Merlin will also say the same. In that sense, their departure didn’t affect the music. It rather made space for many new good things – for them and for Eluveitie.
What really did affect it was how Eluveitie as a band developed new members, which was kind of a lucky turn and at the same time was pretty unexpected. The way [the relationship with the new members] developed over the last 12 months… I don’t know how to describe it. Really familial, also very dedicated at the same time. For instance, we’d been in the studio recording the album and during the whole production time, nearly the full band was there at all times. Even those members who weren’t recording at the time, they were still there, just to be there or to cook for everybody else or so on. It was a very dedicated atmosphere; every day, morning to evening, every corner of the studio had some band members just sitting together, jamming and brooding over details of the songs. There was so much room for spontaneous creativity and three tracks off the new album were actually even fully created this way in the studio. That’s a rather new thing for Eluveitie. I mean, we haven’t worked together so closely as a band, as a group of musicians, for a very long time. And that’s really good in my opinion. So that’s affected the music somehow. I think you can hear this unity and organic-ness and this space for spontaneous creativity on the album.
Was it difficult to find replacements?
Yes and no. It was rather unexpected. I mean, on one hand it was kind of difficult in the beginning, because Anna, Ivo, and Merlin left big shoes to fill. Especially Anna, in my opinion, is one of the greatest vocalists of the time. To find someone even half as good as her… The thing is, when the
three left, we really wanted to search well and choose wisely, and really take as much time as it needs to find the right people.
But we already had shitloads of festivals, open-airs, and tours already booked and confirmed by then, so we actually did not have much time. And it was very clear to us that we’re not going to cancel even one single show. So we quickly decided to hire live session musicians to play all the upcoming shows and take the [necessary] time to search for new members. This is how it came across to the people that actually are in the band now. We didn’t know any of them, but they got recommended to us by friends, musicians, and so on. They all have reputations for being among the very best on their instruments. We contacted them, asked them if they were available for a few months, and they all were.
So we started playing all our summer festivals last year and it was really great. They came in and did their jobs as if they had not done anything else in years. Musically speaking, in our situation, getting those guys was like hitting the fucking jackpot. We started playing the summer festivals and it really rocked. We still kept searching, but the relationships between us grew in a really amazing way. The atmosphere in the band developed in a really amazing way. So this is how we got to the point fall last year where we needed to ask ourselves, “Why the fuck are we still looking for new people if we’ve already found them months ago?” We sat with them then and we asked if they could imagine to not only help us out as session musicians for some months, but to actually become part of our band. Luckily for us, they all said yes. And that’s how we got our current lineup.
Now on to the other songs – was it difficult to illustrate a god’s character musically?
I wouldn’t call it difficult. I can’t really describe that. It’s something that grows and there’s a lot of emotion and feeling and intuition. The tracks on the album don’t really just talk about the respective goddess or god in the lyrics, but they express the characters of the deities musically. I don’t know, it was almost like a spiritual experience or something like that. I don’t really know how to explain it.
I mean, with “Epona” it was quite obvious, as it’s kind of a galloping song, but I wondered how you’d depict other gods?
It’s not that we had songs and then just divided the songs between gods and goddesses, it was other way around. There was somehow a list of gods and goddesses that would be on the album. I mean, there are many more deities in the Celtic pantheon. I cannot say why exactly these gods and
goddesses are on the album. It’s something we never thought about, it just kind of happened. Only then we started writing the music. If I express it in a rather stupid way, I would say we wrote the soundtrack to each of these deities 😉 We explore their characters. I can’t really explain it. It was a very organic process, with much intuition involved, almost spiritual.
Do you think you’ve raised the bar with Evocation II compared to the first one?
I want to say that Evocation II captures the spirit of the first one really well. But still, from a musician’s perspective, playing-wise the second one is obviously on a much higher level.
Do you think that, because it took so long to complete, Evocation II it is more thought-out and developed? Like a fine wine?
[laughs] Actually, I never looked at it that way. Maybe it is, maybe not. I have no idea.
I wondered – don’t get me wrong, I’m just curious – since you put so much time and effort into your research, do you sometimes halfass any phrases?
No. Everything we do conceptually – like Celtic culture and history and also the language – are very accurate. I don’t really know, maybe because we’re nerds or something, but it is very important to us. I believe that if you deal with history, you owe it to history itself, to the people who lived back then do actually do it accurately and conscientiously. It’s a matter of respect, I think, so I put as much effort into that, as I put into the music. It also resembles a scientific project a lot. From the start we always worked with scientists from various universities across Europe.
[Regarding Gaulish in the lyrics], what we do is often something like… let’s take Katy Perry for instance. She has the song called “Unconditionally.”
I honestly wouldn’t know…
I mean, check it out. But in the chorus she actually sings one word and stretches it. So she goes [sings the chorus of “Unconditionally”]. When you write it down, it’s not really “unconditionally,” it’s more like “uncondition-aahl.” We do similar things with Gaulish in our lyrics [to make it fit the music].
Again, since you put so much value into your material, do you think it has an educational value? Or does it create an impact?
[laughs] First thing – we don’t really give a fuck. We don’t want to ‘educate’ anyone; we do it because we like it, it’s our personal passion, and it means a lot to us. We don’t really care if people read our lyrics or not. Also, I’m not actually a fan of ‘spreading’ something. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band, and when you go to metal show, you do that to bang your head off and have a great time – not to learn and to be educated.
But around 2 weeks ago, some days after the release of the “Epona” video clip, we posted the Gaulish song lyrics with translations on our Facebook page – and our fans really appreciated it. There were a lot of people referring to the Gaulish language, having some linguistic questions, even inputs, etc. And that was really amazing to see. Back in the day, 15 years ago when we started and released our Gaulish songs for the first time, no one even knew what Gaulish was. Now there are people on Facebook discussing fucking linguistics! There is growing interest apparently, and this is very, very cool and overwhelming.
To wrap things up – as musician, music is an essential part of your life, obviously, but what would you name as something(s) that would be important to you, as a person?
Well, outside Eluveitie, there’s unfortunately not much time for other things. I mean, obviously music is a huge part of my life. Besides music, being out in nature is important to me.
Any last words?
Thank you for the interview and to everybody reading it. Thanks for supporting Eluveitie!